(I rarely do this, but the following is the actual manuscript of this sermon. It didn’t turn out quite exactly like this, but close enough. The audio is under the Resources tab is you are interested. And the picture of the mask is the one I wore while giving this message.)
You were born without me, but soon realized that if you were to live in this broken world, you would need me.
You didn’t always wear me at first, only when you were afraid… afraid someone wouldn’t love you as you were.
You put me on when you learned to be the Pleaser, not to step out of line, to do everything you could to keep everyone happy.
You put me on when you learned to be the Quiet One, so no one would laugh at you, no one would call you stupid, or tell you to shut up.
You put me on when you needed to hide your hurt, when you were told not to cry.
You put me on when you needed to be tough, so that everyone thought life didn’t bother you, when inside you were aching.
You put me on when you were afraid of not being good enough, smart enough, good-looking enough or talented enough for your parents, your teachers, your coaches, your friends.
Please Mask, you cried, don’t let them see my hurt, my doubts, my fear, my insecurity. Please Mask, don’t let them hear the cries of my soul. Let them think I’m strong, I don’t care, I’m tough. Please protect me so I don’t get hurt more.
And I did. But at a cost to you.
By the time you became a teen-ager you had all but forgotten that I was a mask, I had become so much a part of you.
It was easier this way. This way you didn’t have to touch the emotions that you had hidden. You didn’t have to feel the pain. You could believe that you were all the things you wanted the world to see.
What you don’t realize is that I am not really helping you anymore. Once you needed me to protect you because you were too young, too dependent. Now I have become a hindrance to you.
Oh no, you cry inside… I know you do, I hear all your thoughts, all your cries… I need you! Without you I couldn’t be strong. Without you no one would love me. Without you, they would see the real me and they might not like it.
I know you are deathly afraid to take me off, not only because of what you think others might see, but because of what you, too, will have to face. I know the darkness you try to hide from yourself as well as the world. I know you don’t like to touch it. I know you use me as a shield, but in the end that does more harm than good, you must believe me.
You see, you were created beautiful and unique… your very soul a gift to the world. You ARE THE BELOVED OF GOD.
No, you say, Jesus was the “Beloved of God.” It says so twice in the Bible… once at his baptism and once up on the mountain when he is transfigured.
Yes, Jesus was, but so are you. You are not just loved by God, you are THE BELOVED of GOD. That is the essence of your soul. When you put me on you began to forget… it was safer that way. What good did it do to be the BELOVED OF GOD if the world couldn’t see it? So you covered up your belovedness. You denied it to yourself and so it to the world.
I am the anger that shields your vulnerability.
I am the food that fills the empty place so you don’t need to touch it.
I am the laugh that hides your discomfort.
I am the criticism and bitterness that hides your brokenness.
I am the alcohol and drugs, work and sex, exercise and tv… everything that has become an obsession that keeps you from thinking, from going deeper.
I am the fear that keeps you safe, keeps you from risking again, being vulnerable again.
I am the “yes” you say so everyone will love you.
I am the wall you erect to keep yourself from loving too deeply and too completely.
I am the false humility and arrogance to hide your self-doubts.
I am the neediness that keeps others close and hides your fear of loss.
I am the happy face hiding all of your pain.
I am the aloofness keeping the world at arm’s length.
And I am so much more as well…
Please take me off. You cannot heal and be whole with me on.
There is nothing you can’t handle. You are the Beloved of God. Any pain you need to touch, any memory you need to walk through, any shame or betrayal or fear or grief… any of it must be better than not really living. And you are not really living when you hide that beautiful, unique soul you were born with.
Underneath all the layers of pain and self-doubt that you have acquired over the years, you will find your soul again. You will know that you are the Beloved. If you never take me off how will you ever really know that you are The Beloved? And how will the world experience your Belovedness?
I can tell you, and you can believe it in your mind, but until you rediscover your belovedness underneath all the baggage, you won’t really know it in your heart. And until you know it in your heart, it is hard to live as the Beloved.
When you live as the Beloved, you will find that your life will be transformed. You will be transfigured. You will glow with a new life force. You will live your life with a calm and peace and joy that you know at a depth greater than you thought possible. Your priorities will shift, things will matter less to you. Success, money, prestige will matter less to you. You will clearly see that so many of the things of the world have been designed for me, your mask, to keep me on.
And, you will relate differently to others because you will know that they, too, are the Beloved, but have covered it up and forgotten.
Taking me off is a process… you’ve been wearing me for many, many years now. We have become good friends…. good enough friends that I want what is best for you. I want you to be YOU. You, your true authentic self. You, the Beloved.
Don’t expect to get rid of me overnight, but find people and places where you are safe to take me off. See what it feels like. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Work through those feelings and experiences you thought you could never touch… you will find that touching them is not as bad as you thought. And not worth denying yourself your life for.
I won’t leave you without your permission, and I’ll always be there if you need me again. But I pray to outlive my usefulness. I pray that you are able to live your one wild, bold, beautiful life freely, unencumbered by me.
I see your truth… you are beautiful, courageous, creative, resourceful, kind, loving… I know you are the BELOVED. Know it for yourself.
Take me off.